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Teaser An early presidential election in Zimbabwe is likely, but if it happens, it will be a controversial affair. Zimbabwe's Presidential Election Controversy Editor's Note: This is part one of a series on Zimbabwe's possible early presidential election. It will provide a background on the elections, which are apt to be marred by controversy. Part two will compare and contrast the situation in Zimbabwe with recent developments in Ivory Coast, where a contested presidential election recently led to the downfall of former President Laurent Gbagbo. Part three will explore the role in Zimbabwe of South Africa, which will be the key player in shaping any postMugabe government. Zimbabwe may hold a presidential election in the coming months, though no date has been set can we re-phrase this to say that ZANU-PF is pushing to move up a presidential election, possibly as early as in the coming months. ZANU-PF is experiencing push-back, however, with others such as the opposition MDC trying to hold off on holding new elections until 2012 at the earliest . The government of President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe with his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party since independence from the United Kingdom in 1980, is not constitutionally required to hold a presidential election until 2013. Determining whether Zimbabwe will hold a presidential election early is currently the subject of an intense political struggle. As holding a new presidential election sooner rather than later benefits the ZANUPF, early elections can be expected. The elections will be marred by controversy, however, and this time around, are likely to draw intense African -- and even international – scrutiny I’d reverse this to say that it’s a no-brainer that the election will get intense international scrutiny, but this time around they will also draw intense African scrutiny. Mugabe and the Advantage of Incumbency Mugabe is 87 years old, and increasingly has made trips abroad, notably to Singapore, for medical evaluations. Uncertainties regarding Mugabe's longevity are not lost on his supporters when calculating how best to maintain their hold on power. According to the Zimbabwean Constitution, should the president die or resign, the incumbent party names his successor, who will finish out the remainder of the existing term. Were early elections not held and Mugabe died or otherwise left office before 2013, ZANU-PF thus would name the person who would finish out his term. Holding the presidential election early would re-set the five year timetable. Thus, if Zimbabwe held a presidential election in 2011 and Mugabe were re-elected for what would be his a seventh term as leader of Zimbabwe (he started out his career as
Prime Minister before becoming President), the party would rule the presidency until 2016 regardless of when Mugabe actually left office. This suggests the ZANUPF would call elections sooner rather than later if it had serious concerns regarding Mugabe's health. He is the party's most popular (would rephrase popular to say he is their undisputed champion with universal recognition, something his rivals within his party do not possess) figure, and hence represents its best shot at holding on to the presidency. ZANU-PF calculations also will be influenced by the current weakness of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The MDC has is still split into two factions, one led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the other led by Welshman Ncube. The splits have prevented the opposition from taking advantage of ZANU-PF's failure to comply with the terms of a coalition government agreement reached in 2009. Election Controversy and the Outside Response If Zimbabwe's last national elections are any guide, the current elections are likely to be controversial. ZANU-PF initially relaxed during the 2008 parliamentary and presidential election campaigns only to lose a majority of parliamentary seats http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/zimbabwe_oppositions_precarious_victory as well as the first round of the presidential vote to the MDC. This jolted ZANU-PF into action, and the ruling party went into a feverish pitch to ensure it won the second round of the presidential election. It also effectively intimidated MDC parliamentarians such that even though the MDC held a parliamentary majority, it could not act as an effective governing party and thereby disrupt ZANU-PF control. ZANU-PF intimidation and violence ultimately forced the MDC into accepting junior partnership http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20090130_zimbabwe_power_sharing_deal_no_r eal_sharing_power in the new government with ZANU-PF in charge. Despite widespread condemnation of ZANU-PF behavior, there was little that other African countries or the international community could do to block the ruling party from imposing its writ. A handful of African governments, notably the Kenyans and Botswanans, criticized ZANU-PF and called on Mugabe to recognize a Tsvangirai victory, but the rest remained silent on the issue, or involved themselves in mediation that ultimately benefited the ZANU-PF. This time around, it is very unlikely that ZANU-PF will get the same leeway from its African peers. The ZANU-PF will be under intense scrutiny for the elections-related violence it already has stoked http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20110118zimbabwes-ruling-party-consolidates-power, and will be expected to permit an elections environment conducive to the opposition. This is not to say the international community is pressuring for an opposition win. This could also mean an environment ripe for factions within ZANU-PF http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20101111_ongoing_contest_shape_zimbabwes_ next_government to undermine Mugabe. There are two leading factions to succeed
him, and perhaps the leading one is led by Defense Minister Emerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa’s top rival to succeed Mugabe is a faction fronted by Vice President Joyce Mujuru, backed by her husband, former army commander General Solomon Mujuru. It is not inconceivable that one of these factions perceiving a weaker hand might reach out to a MDC faction to try to block a Mugabe win. If the ZANU-PF loses the election, it will face pressure not to impose a power-sharing government like it did in 2008; also, if an alliance of secondary ZANU-PF and MDC factions forms to upset the Mugabe-led ZANU-PF, it will face pressure not to stop this from emerging successfully. The international community, too, can be expected to weigh in. It uniformly opposed the formation of a similar power-sharing government in Ivory Coast, arguing that this kind of agreement replicated what they viewed as similar democratic shams in Zimbabwe and Kenya.